Media Review for December 18, 2015

Niger Government Foils Coup Attempt, President Says on TV
Niger’s government has foiled an attempted coup and arrested people who planned to use aerial firepower to seize control, President Mahamadou Issoufou said in an address on national television on Thursday. Issoufou was elected in 2011, one year after a coup. Political tension is high ahead of a presidential election set for Feb. 21. Issoufou is favourite to win but the opposition accuses his government of repression ahead of the vote. Issoufou called the coup attempt high treason and said the situation was under control and all the main actors had been arrested, except one person who had fled. The people behind the coup held power in the 1960s, he said. “The government has just foiled an evil attempt at detribalization. The objective of these individuals, motivated by I don’t know what, was to overthrow the democratically elected power,” he said.  Reuters

Niger Arrests Officers Plotting Coup Ahead of 2016 Election
Niger arrested senior military officers planning to use the nation’s air force to topple the government ahead of February’s presidential election, President Mahamadou Issoufou said. The officers had been plotting for weeks, Issoufou, 63, said Thursday in a speech broadcast on state television. The president is seeking re-election next year, with the first round of voting scheduled for Feb. 21. Niger is the world’s fourth-largest producer of uranium, the material used to fuel nuclear power plants, and pumps crude oil.  Bloomberg

African Union Seeks 5,000 Peacekeepers for Burundi: Diplomat
The African Union’s (AU) Peace and Security Council has proposed sending 5,000 peacekeepers to Burundi, invoking for the first time a rule which allows it to deploy a force without a country’s consent, a diplomat said. Burundi, which U.N. officials say is on the brink of civil war, has said there was no need for a peacekeeping mission. Asked about the latest proposal, one minister said he understood it was still a draft and so would not comment at this stage. The AU decision, drawn up late on Thursday, needs approval from the U.N. Security Council, which has been considering options to resolve the crisis including sending peacekeepers. “We have authorized the deployment of a 5,000-man force for Burundi whose mandate includes the protection of civilians,” a diplomat from a member country of the council told Reuters.  Reuters

Constant Bloodbaths in Bujumbura
Five bodies lie next to a mud house. Some are shirtless, as if the victims had been dragged out of bed and lined up before the bullets pierced them. A moment ago, these men embodied youth and strength. Now they are covered in blood and dust. “They kill our husbands and sons. And they tell us there is peace,” a woman screams. The crowd that has gathered in Cibitoke, a neighbourhood in the Burundian capital Bujumbura, watches, both incredulous and distraught. A woman sobs. Another breaks into a wail. Police later say they killed the five because they were plotting attacks. News 24

Libya’s Rival Factions Sign U.N. Peace Deal
Members of Libya’s rival parliaments on Thursday signed a landmark, U.N.-sponsored deal on forming a unity government that will strive to bring peace to the war-ravaged country. Supporters of the agreement hope that rival political factions and militias will embrace the deal and agree on a cease-fire, so that they can fend off the Islamic State extremist group, which is expanding its gains in the North African country. The document was signed in Morocco by Emhemed Shoaib, the deputy speaker of the internationally recognized Libyan parliament, and Salah al-Makhzoum, the second deputy of the Islamist-backed parliament based in the capital, Tripoli, among others. Libya slid into chaos following the 2011 toppling and killing of dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Over a year ago, it was further torn – in addition to having two parliaments – between the internationally recognized government, based in the country’s east, and the Islamist-backed government in Tripoli. AP on Al Arabiya

US Special Ops Troops Kicked out of Libya
A group of US special operations troops who had traveled to Libya to “foster relationships” was kicked out of the conflict-torn country soon after they arrived, the Pentagon said Thursday. A Facebook page belonging to the Libyan air force posted photographs of the men, who were dressed in rugged civilian clothing, including plaid shirts, and were carrying assault rifles. A US defense official confirmed that the men in the photo were indeed US troops in Libya on Monday. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said the troops were in Libya “with the concurrence of Libyan officials.”  AFP

Britain Hopes to Send Hundreds of Troops to Libya after Peace Deal
Britain hopes to send hundreds of troops to Libya after the signing of a UN-sponsored peace deal that nominally unifies the two rival Libyan governments. This comes despite the agreement being denounced as illegitimate by some of the groups that it is meant to unite. The UK expects to be asked by the new Libyan government to deploy troops to train and advise the country’s fledgling force as it attempts to stabilise Libya and stem the advance of Islamic State, which has a coastal base. A fortnight after sending fighter jets to Syrian skies, the Ministry of Defence is ready to send up to 1,000 troops in a non-combat capacity, the defence secretary, Michael Fallon, announced in an interview with Forces TV. In a separate statement, David Cameron said: “Importantly, this agreement means the international community can now engage with one unified, representative government in Libya in the fight against Daesh [Isis] and the migrant traffickers.” The Guardian

W. African Leaders Seek Ban on Full-Face Veil to Prevent Attacks
West African leaders said Thursday they were seeking to “forbid” women wearing full-face veils in an effort to curb the growing number of female suicide bombers unleashed by Boko Haram jihadists. The president of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, told reporters at the close of a two-day summit in Abuja that leaders must take “measures that would forbid this kind of dress that will not allow security personnel to be sure of their identities.” Losing swathes of territory to the Nigerian army, Boko Haram jihadists have since July started using young women and girls as suicide bombers by hiding explosives in their loose-fitting clothes. AFP on Yahoo News

Will Africa Have its Own ‘Arab Spring?’
On December 17, 2010, a young vegetable seller set himself on fire in the small city of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. This act sparked massive protests against the then president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, which eventually forced him from power. The movement, utilizing social media to organize mass protests, spread to neighboring countries and led to the overthrow of Muammar al-Gaddafi in Libya and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the events of the Arab Spring were observed with skepticism and uncertainty but also a lot of admiration. However little changed. But then in 2014 mass protests of young people drove Burkina Faso’s president, Blaise Compaore, from power. Deutsche Welle

UN Accused of ‘Gross Failure’ over Alleged Sexual Abuse by French Troops
The United Nations’ failure to respond to allegations that French peacekeepers sexually abused children in Central African Republic amounted to “gross institutional failure” and allowed assaults to continue, according to an independent panel’s damning report released on Thursday. The study, commissioned by the UN, found that children as young as nine were encouraged to take part in oral sex in exchange for food or money in the middle of a war zone. The alleged perpetrators were mainly French soldiers from a unit known as the Sangaris force which was operating under authorisation of the security council but not under UN command. The Guardian

SPLM Convention to Include Armed Opposition Members: Official
The forthcoming extra-ordinary meeting of South Sudan’s ruling Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) party due early next year will also involve members of the armed opposition faction (SPLM-IO), a top official disclosed.  The acting SPLM secretary general, Jemma Nunu Kumba told reporters that all party members who participated in the 2008 convention will be invited. “The FDs (former detainees) are already here [Juba] and are invited as well as the SPLM in opposition to attend the extraordinary meeting on January 7th 2016,” she said. Sudan Tribune

Jacob Zuma: How South Africa Turned on its President
Jacob Zuma, the South African President, has faced potentially career-killing scandals before: taxpayer-funded upgrades to his private estate, corruption allegations linked to an arms deal, and a rape charge, on which he was acquitted after arguing he had unprotected but consensual sex with an HIV-positive woman. Throughout it all, his powerful position within the African National Congress has carried him through. But Mr Zuma’s latest scandal, the sacking of a respected minister of finance – followed by an embarrassing reversal – may have put him on the back foot, a year into his second term as president. The Independent

UN Slammed for ‘Gross Failure’ over CAR Abuse Allegations
The United Nations was rebuked for a “gross” failure to act on allegations that French and African troops sexually abused children in the Central African Republic, in a report by an independent panel released Thursday. In a 100-page long-awaited report, the panel described a breakdown in UN leadership on the ground in Bangui followed by missteps by senior officials in Geneva and New York after the allegations were leaked. “The end result was a gross institutional failure to respond to the allegations in a meaningful way,” said the hard-hitting report by the three-member panel led by Canadian judge Marie Deschamps. France 24

‘90%’ of Voters in Capital City Back New C.Africa Constitution
Nearly 90 percent of voters in the Central African Republic’s capital Bangui voted for changes to the constitution in a referendum aimed at ending years of sectarian strife, though turnout was low at 30 percent, partial results showed Thursday. The voting on Sunday was marred by violence triggered by armed factions opposed to the referendum, in a country that was plunged into conflict after a mainly Muslim rebellion overthrew in 2013 the longtime Christian leader, Francois Bozize. The referendum was seen as a test run for presidential and parliamentary elections set for December 27 to end the more than two years of conflict between Muslim and Christian militias. AFP on Yahoo News

Gunman Kills Three at Christian Radio Station in Mali
A gunman killed three people outside a Christian radio station in the Malian city of Timbuktu overnight, local officials said on Friday. “Three people, including a radio host from ‘Tahanite’, the Christian station in Timbuktu, were in front of (the station) when an armed man came to shoot them dead before fleeing,” a local government official told AFP. A senior official in the governor’s office confirmed a radio presenter was among the victims, as well as “at least one Catholic”, pointing the finger at Islamic extremists. “Terrorists who do not want to hear about other religions except Islam are, for me, the perpetrators of this crime,” he told AFP. “It is a jihadist attack aimed at dividing Muslims and Catholics but they will never succeed.”  AFP on Standard Digital

Why Syrian Refugees are Travelling to Mali
The West African country of Mali has become a new transit hub for hundreds of refugees fleeing Syria. From there, they will continue their desperate journey to Europe. Over the past few weeks, there’s been some stir about the several dozen Syrian families who arrived in Ber and Khalil, cities in northern Mali controlled by the Coordination of the Azawad Movements, a Tuareg separatist group. These families have travelled to West Africa in a roundabout attempt to reach Europe along the route used by sub-Saharan African migrants. They crossed into Mali after flying into the city of Nouakchott in neighbouring Mauritania, which doesn’t require visas from Syrians. They hope to cross into Algeria, then Europe. Other Syrian families are also travelling through the Malian capital, Bamako, on their way to Europe. Some refugees are staying with locals, while others are being housed in a stadium. France 24

Shiites: Nigerian Army Buries Victims to Hide Massacre Toll
Nigerian troops Wednesday buried the bodies of hundreds of victims of an alleged military massacre of Shiite Muslims to hide the death toll, the Shiite Islamic Movement in Nigeria said. Wednesday’s allegation comes as human rights advocates and the United States called for an investigation following the army’s raid on Nigerian Shiites in which hundreds of people were reportedly killed and Shiite leader Ibraheem Zakzaky suffered four bullet wounds. The military said it acted after Shiites tried to assassinate Nigeria’s army chief. Army spokesman Col. Sani Usman did not immediately respond to an email late Wednesday requesting comment on the burial charges. Details of the weekend violence in Zaria have been slow to emerge because the three attacked areas of the northern town have been on lockdown with no one allowed to enter or leave.  AP on Stars and Stripes

Broken Homes Await Nigerians Who Fled Boko Haram Onslaught
When Bukar Kojo fled a Boko Haram raid on his home last month, he made his way to the relative haven of camps in northeastern Nigeria’s Adamawa state that house thousands of others displaced by the six-year-old Islamist militant insurgency. Kojo, a 49-year-old corn farmer, like many others is too scared to return home and believes there is little to go back to. Yet, despite unrelenting attacks and bombings in the northeast, President Muhammadu Buhari has said authorities will begin moving back all displaced people to their areas of origin. The region needs billions of dollars to rebuild at a time when the finances of Africa’s biggest oil producer have been hit by a plunge in crude prices. Bloomberg

Rwandans Vote on Allowing third Kagame Presidential Term
Rwandans are voting in a referendum on a constitutional amendment to allow President Paul Kagame to seek a third term in office. Most voters, some 6.4 million, are eligible to vote on Friday, but around 37,000 Rwandans living overseas were able to have their say on Thursday. The change would allow Mr Kagame to potentially remain in power until 2034. Rwandans are expected to vote overwhelmingly in favour of changing the constitution. Mr Kagame is praised at home and abroad for bringing about development and economic growth, reports the BBC’s Catherine Byaruhanga in the Rwandan capital Kigali. But his critics accuse him of heavy-handed rule and human rights abuses, she adds. BBC

Tunisia has Joined the Saudi led Islamic Anti-terrorism Coalition
Tunisia has joined the Islamic anti-terrorism coalition, a spokesperson for the Presidency has confirmed. However, joining the Saudi Arabian led coalition does not represent a commitment to military action, but rather a “a political and principled support for the Saudi initiative.” The coalition, aimed principally at countering the growth of Daesh will be made up of a grouping of 34 countries from Asia, Africa and the Arab world and will be headquartered in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. Significantly, Iraq and Syria, both of whom have ties to Shia dominated Iran have not joined the coalition. The move comes amidst increased international pressure upon the Kingdom to do more to combat the spread of terrorism, which many have accused it and the other Gulf members of the group, of partly funding.  Tunisia Live

Ugandans, Sudanese Flee Upsurge in Violence
At least 19 of 65 Ugandans who were reportedly trapped in clashes that erupted early last week between rebel forces and the South Sudanese Army (SPLA), have safely returned to Uganda, security officials have said. The violence that erupted on December 8, in Ikotos, Eastern Equatorial State, about 60km from Ugandan border, saw a total of 343 South Sudanese fleeing to Ugandan territory in Lamwo District at the weekend. South Sudanese who had camped at Madi-Opei border post in Madi-Opei Sub-County have since been relocated to Dzaipi Refugees camp in Adjumani District by United Nations High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR). Speaking to Daily Monitor in a telephone interview on Monday, Lamwo Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Jonathan Rutabingwa confirmed that 19 of the 65 Ugandan traders crossed safely into Uganda on Sunday.  Daily Monitor

Leprosy Resurfacing in Malawi
Southern Malawi has seen a resurgence of leprosy, which was believed to have been stamped out in the country in 1970. The disease has been reported in five districts since 2011, including the capital, and the caseload continues to grow. Malawi’s leprosy-free status does not mean the disease was ever totally eliminated. In 1994, the World Health Organization defined leprosy-free status as having less than one case per 10,000 people. VOA